• Even in the long and storied career of Pedro Almodovar- 2019’s Pain and Glory is a superior work.
  • Almodovar works in melodrama- one of the all-time greats—like Fassbinder and Sirk—but the autofiction (his word in the film) here pushes this more towards Fellini (critics have mentioned that this is his 8 ½ and that is an apt description). Some of Almodovar’s earlier works have been broader almost Preston Sturges-like comedies (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) and others have leaned towards Hitchcock (The Skin I Live In).

The beauty in Pain and Glory stars early with breathtaking avant-garde opening titles.

Almodóvar is one of the few still taking opening credits seriously and rendering them artistically- another comparison with Hitchcock– Fassbinder was not a slouch here either

  • In the next sequence, Antonio Banderas (playing Salvador Mallo) is underwater with his eyes closed.   There is a flashback scene early with Salvador’s mother (Penelope Cruz) singing while washing clothes in the river. There are priests in the school flashback. Salvador certainly has Almodóvar’s hair- and Banderas nails Almodóvar’s coy smile.
  • Memory and flashbacks – and then conversations with other works of art, artists and texts (including his own which is a sort of bizarre self pat on the back).
  • The visual style is, as always with Almodóvar, about the mise-en-scene filled with vibrant colors, costume design. There are at least four to five sublime cinematic paintings that may end up among his twenty to twenty-five greatest.
  • The film is not flawless- the entire geography/anatomy scene at school with the voiceover section should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Asier Etxeandia plays Alberto—at the 17-minute mark Salvador and Alberto are sitting in Almodóvar’s trademark chase lounge chairs as they chase the dragon together.

  • The sublime brown tile décor detailing at the station is first shown at the 19-minute mark- this will come back for the masterful ending.
  • The story chronicles Salvador’s struggles with his back pains, drug abuse- he is a film director who is rummaging through his memories as he faces these hazards (the pain of the “Pain and Glory”).
  • Nora Navas as Mercedes at the 49-minute mark on the phone (going back to Almodóvar’s great shots from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) in front of the colored canvas blinds.

At the 74-minute mark there is a painting in the background—the orange chair with Banderas’ Salvador on the left- pouring tequila- with Leonardo Sbaraglia on the right in a maroon chair. A fabulous reoccurring image in his oeuvre—the two people in conversation in chairs (wheelchairs in Talk to Her)—really well done. His films are highly verbal so to make a composition out of a dialogue sequence is impressive. Bergman, Kurosawa could do it– but few others.

The faux green backdrop at the 79-minute mark stunner- like the great auteurs who previously worked in melodrama- Fassbinder and Sirk– Almodovar pays as much attention to the background as he does the foreground. This is triumph for Antonio Banderas—the best performance of his career.

  • At the 91-minute mark there is this gray design on the glass with the bold colors in the kitchen as a backdrop.

a quick sequence during a dialogue scene– magnificently obstructed and textured mise-en-scene

  • Nostalgia and pain- long history, chance meetings and heroin use. The film tackles depression, acts as a sort of confessional in the scenes with mother. This is Banderas’ best work as an actor.

The whitewash (these great setpiece cave houses) composition at the village at the 96-minute mark with the red shirt as a child- one of the great paintings in Almodovar’s oeuvre.

  • For Almodovar this marks the eight collaboration with Antonio Banderas and sixth with Penelope Cruz- the actor and actress most associated with the great Spanish auteur at this point- and not just because of their successes in Hollywood as well.
  • Back to the jaw-dropper train station decor at the 119-minute mark – redemption as Salvador can make films again.

The final shot is breathtaking as well- it is metafiction (it collides the world of the main narrative and flashbacks) but also a strong composition with the brown tile work

  • Highly Recommend / Must See border- leaning Must-See